Vacationers at Low Tide

Should I answer them
when this couple from Phoenix
Birds of Cape Cod booklet in hand
asks me if I’ve ever seen
so many birds in my life

should I say as they share
a heavy pair of binoculars
eager as first graders huddled
in the cold breeze with its smell
of mud and salt marsh hay

should I tell them, when he murmurs
Sweet Jesus, look at them all
that this scattering of shorebirds
dashing about in the brackish shallows
is a tragedy, a travesty

should I call them what they are
ragged remnants
of the flocks of hundreds, thousands
that spread over these mudflats
a foraging brown-backed multitude

that rose in an uproar of wings
booming like the surf
beating the beach
out beyond the dunes

or should I nod yes, say
you’ve picked a good day
and watch with them
as the survivors, the lucky few
flap off in twos and threes
as the tide rises in the creeks?